The world’s economy is experiencing transformational changes that, I believe, will dramatically alter patterns of energy use over the next 20 years. Exponential gains in industrial productivity, software-assisted logistics, rapid urbanization, increased political turmoil in key regions of the developing world, and large bets on renewable energy are among the many factors that will combine to slow the previous breakneck growth for oil.
The result, in my opinion, is as startling as it is world-changing: Global oil demand will peak within the next two decades.
Oil-market watchers are struggling to reconcile the large estimated oversupply in the market with the much smaller buildup of reported inventories and narrowing contango in futures prices.
Some blame the barrel counters who compile official statistics on supply, demand and stocks. But the truth is that information on the world oil market is incomplete and it is easy for hundreds of millions of barrels of oil to disappear from the supply chain without being counted.
According to the three main statistical agencies, the global market has been oversupplied by between 1.5 million and 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) since the start of the year.
Stockpiles should have increased by between 200 million and 350 million barrels, according to the International Energy Agency, OPEC and the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
U.S. crude stocks have indeed increased by around 100 million barrels since the start of the year while China's stocks appear to have risen by between 50 and 100 million barrels.
But that still leaves more than 100 million barrels that have simply vanished from the international statistical system.
Bioenergy generally comes from two sources: forestry and agriculture. Within the EU, Germany is the greatest producer of wood, and wood is by far the greatest source of bioenergy in the country. Roughly 40 percent of German timber production is used as a source of energy, with the rest used as material. Germany is also the leading biogas market – in 2010, more than 60 percent of Europe’s electricity from biogas was produced there, with further dynamic growth to come.
In 2011, Germany was already using nearly 17 percent of its arable land for energy crops. Studies show that this share can be increased as a result of the decrease in population in the next few decades and increasing hectare yields in the agricultural sector. Environmental organizations, however, point out the environmental impacts of energycrops; for instance, the large increase in the cultivation of corn for use in energyproduction (and the problems associated with corn monocultures) is frequently associated with the plowing of valuable grassland. Energy crops can also have adverse effects on the quality of groundwater and cause soil erosion. To prevent these effects, Germany’s revised Renewable Energy Act (EEG) limits the amount of corn and grain eligible for special compensation. In addition, a set of incentives seeks to encourage increased use of less environmentally polluting substrates, such as material from landscape management activities and residues.